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New sexting ordinance proposed in Suamico

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

SUAMICO – An ordinance amendment related to minors sending messages of a sexual nature to other minors, also known as sexting, has been introduced in the village.

The first reading of the proposed ordinance was Monday, Jan. 6, by the Suamico village board.

Village Administrator Alex Kaker said the village’s current ordinance, which adopted state law related to sending obscene or sexually explicit messages, specifically refers to email and doesn’t mention minors.

“The new ordinance being proposed tonight prohibits sexting by minors, and that includes text messages and any other social media communication,” he said. “This also allows officers to issue a citation and have the minor appear in municipal court, rather than being sent to juvenile authorities on criminal charges.”

Trustee Dan Roddan said the Health and Safety Committee discussed the proposed ordinance, which is mostly geared toward Bay Port High School in the Howard-Suamico School District.

“It’s giving our resource officers within the school something to work with, and allowing us to handle it at a municipal level,” he said.

Roddan said cases involving the sexting of minors could be handled by Suamico Municipal Judge Kevin Rathburn, instead of having to be dealt with in juvenile court.

However, direct enforcement officer Marc Pisani said an incident that rises to the level of possessing child pornography, for instance, would still be referred to juvenile authorities.

“This ordinance would deal with a specific issue within school – either messages, photos or whatnot – from one minor to another minor,” Pisani said.

Pisani said the state is currently behind on having a statute to deal with sexting.

“This (proposed ordinance) is something, in the meantime, that gives our officers something to cite for,” he said.

The measure, which would repeal the current village code related to sending obscene or sexually explicit electronic messages and replace it with a prohibition on sexting by minors, will be back on the board’s agenda Jan. 20 for final approval.

Nearby municipalities previously adopted ordinances prohibiting sexting by minors with the village boards in Howard and Ashwaubenon having done so last summer.

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